This project will exploit the molecular genetic basis of the photo-regulation of plant architecture to improve crop plant performance in the field. In this programme, we will co-ordinate the skills and experience of European plant photo-biologists, geneticists, molecular biologists, cell biologists and genetic engineers, all of whom are major players at the international level, with the practical acumen of plant scientists in highly relevant European industrial companies. We will use gene modification, mutant selection and transgenic plant creation to elaborate a strategy through which fundamental knowledge of plant architecture regulation will be applied to the molecular breeding of new strains of crop plants with improved agronomic performance.
Plant architecture - i.e., the shape and form of individual plants - is a prime determinant of the capture of light energy in photosynthesis and the allocation of resources to individual components, such as stems, leaves, roots, tubers and seeds. Plant architecture is profoundly sensitive to signals from the light environment and these photo-morphogenic responses crucially determine the patterns of growth and development at seed germination, seedling emergence and establishment, throughout the productive lifetime of the plant as it competes with neighbours, and during the reproductive phase. The isolation and characterization of the gene families encoding the major signal-transducing photoreceptors has provided a fertile background from which now to launch a programme that will utilise our knowledge towards crop plant improvement. Very recently, Partner 1 has demonstrated the success of this approach by the transgenic elimination of shade avoidance responses in tobacco, resulting in profound changes in plant architecture and improvement of harvest index in the field.
This project will expand and perfect an exciting and entirely novel approach to crop plant improvement. It is significant that European photo-morphogenesis laboratories have a substantial lead over competitors in other countries in this development, and the collaboration outlined here will exploit and consolidate that position of priority.
The objectives of the proposed programme are:
. to understand the signal perception functions of plant photoreceptors through the isolation and molecular modification of photoreceptor genes, the selection and functional analysis of photoreceptor mutants, and the creation of transgenic plants expressing native and modified photoreceptor genes at varied levels, at different developmental stages, and in different parts of the plan . to determine the pathways by which light signals evoke specific developmental changes through the selection of new transduction chain mutants, to identify and characterise key transduction chain components and genes, to analyse photo-responses at the cell level using microinjection technology, and to establish the interactions between light signals and phytohormone modulations that control developmental processes;
. to utilise the native and modified gene constructs obtained to generate via genetic engineering, and to test in the laboratory and in the field, improved plants of major European crops, in which responses to light signals are modified so as to enhance performance.
The synergy of the proposed team and the management structure envisaged will provide for effective exploitation of the results, both in intellectual understanding and in enhanced application of biotechnology in European agriculture.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
79104 Freiburg (In Breisgau)
4411 RB Rilland
NR4 7UH Norwich
1600 AA Enkhuizen
6703 BD Wageningen